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AWARDS

Spain has selected a high profile trio of films as finalists for the country’s 2021 International Feature Oscar submission.

The favorite, at least at this early stage, is Pedro Almodóvar’sMadres paralelas” (“Parallel Mothers“), which just saw lead Penelope Cruz take the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival. The film, which world premiered at the Italian event, was also a contender for the Golden Lion for best film and the Queer Lion.

Not to be counted out, Fernando León de Aranoa’sThe Good Boss,” starring an almost unrecognizable Javier Bardem, was also selected as a finalist for this year’s honor. Buzz around the film is at a fever pitch in Spain, with positive word of mouth after initial press screenings and its official world premiere set for next week’s San Sebastian Film Festival.

Rounding out the short list is Marcel Barrena’sMediterraneo: The Law of the Sea,” another of this year’s San Sebastian world premieres. The film tells the true-life origin story of the Mediterranean-based NGO Open Arms.

Also a 2021 Venice world premiere, Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat’s “Official Competition,” starring Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Argentina’s Oscar Martinez, will have to wait until next year for its likely inclusion on the short list, as it’s Spanish theatrical premiere will come after the window of eligibility for this year has closed.

SALES

London-based production funding and distribution agency Drive has closed sales to a number of international broadcasters for “Osama Bin Laden: The Inside Story,” a new three-part documentary series from Voltage. Originally commissioned by Channel 4 in the U.K., the series was picked up by SBS in Australia, SVT in Sweden, DR in Denmark and NRK in Norway. The series offers viewers unique access to several people who knew bin Laden personally, painting a more wholistic picture of who he really was, his influences and how he developed into the man the world came to know at the turn of the century.

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Bin Laden Credit: Drive

FESTIVAL

Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, in cooperation with Al Jazeera Balkans and AJB DOC Film Festival, will launch the AJD Industry Days @ AJB DOC platform in 2022, which is intended to become one of the largest and most important funding platforms for documentaries. It is an international platform aimed at supporting the development of documentary film production worldwide, including international and regional co-productions.

AJD industry Days@ AJB DOC will provide an opportunity for documentary filmmakers to network with decision-makers from the Balkans and beyond in order to secure funding for the production of documentaries from Southeast Europe, South Caucasus and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) and support for their broadcast, distribution, screening, and sales worldwide. – Christopher Vourlias

*****

The Power of the Dog,” the New Zealand-made drama film by Jane Campion, has been set as the opening gala title at the New Zealand International Film Festival. Having enjoyed high profile festival berths in Venice, Telluride, Toronto and San Sebastian, the film will play in Auckland on Oct. 28, followed by Christchurch on Oct. 29, with Wellington and Dunedin following a week later, concurrently, on Nov. 5. Following its NZIFF bow, the film will be released theatrically across New Zealand by Transmission Films on Nov. 11, with Netflix playing it globally online from Dec. 1. The film was shot entirely in New Zealand’s South Island and features contributions from local actor Thomasin McKenzie, and Oscar-winning production designer Grant Major. – Patrick Frater

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‘The Power of the Dog’ is the opening film of the New Zealand International Film Festival. Netflix

*****

Breakout French director Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winner “Happening” will open this year’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival, running Nov. 4-14. Diwan’s powerful abortion drama bested big-name competition to take this year’s best feature prize at Venice, awarded by a jury headed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Bong Joon-ho and featuring “Nomadland” – last year’s winner – director Chloé Zhao. Diwan was only the sixth woman to take the festival’s top award, and this was the first time that two women won the prize in back-to-back years. “Happening” is adapted from standout French author Annie Ernaux’s eponymous novel and unspools in 1960s France where 23-year-old Anne, a gifted student just beginning to discover herself, finds out she’s pregnant and must decide whether to give up on her dreams or seek out an at-the-time illegal abortion.

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Happening Courtesy of Wild Bunch

PRODUCTION

Former HBO Europe production executives Wayne Henry and Alina David have launched EastWest Productions.eu, a new Bucharest-based independent production label established to support the emerging Eastern European screen industries and develop local talent in drama production. Romania has long had a stellar reputation for its production services, and the two industry vets will look to exploit their extensive networks developed over decades in the industry to attract more high-end drama productions to the region.

CASTING

Wildlife and nature platform Love Nature has revealed that actor Sean Bean (“The Lord of the Rings,” “Game of Thrones”) will narrate its latest original documentary, “Osprey: Sea Raptor.” Produced by Love Nature and CosmoVision Media Group, the one-hour special will profile a pair of raptors, which mate for life, as they reunite year after year to raise their young. “Osprey: Sea Raptor” will premiere on the company’s linear and streaming platforms outside the U.S. and U.K. this fall, with Sky Nature broadcasting in the U.K. Blue Ant International will be seeking further international licensing and pre-sale opportunities at Mipcom.

“It’s a rare treat to see Osprey in my part of the world, so it’s a wonderful experience to be part of a story that gives an up-close look at these magnificent birds of prey,” said Bean. “The team truly immersed themselves in the life journey of these Osprey and I can’t wait to see the finished special.”

STREAMING

HBO Max’s original Danish drama series “Kamikaze,” recently premiered at Series Mania where lead Marie Reuther won Best Actress in the International Competition, will launch on HBO Max in Denmark and other territories where the service is available in November. “Kamikaze” is the first Max Original commission from Denmark, and turns on an 18-year-old woman who has unthinkable riches thrust upon her when her parents are killed in a plane crash. Although she seems to have everything, Julie struggles with the loss of her family and finds little solace in the material wealth they’ve left behind. The series is produced by Ditte Milsted at Profile Pictures. It was written by Johanne Algren, conceptualized by Annette K. Olesen and directed by Kaspar Munk. It also received backing from Danish Film Institute (Public Service Fund) and developed with the support of the Creative Europe MEDIA Programme of the European Union.

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Kamikaze ‘Kamikaze’ Credit: Asmund Sollihogda

APPOINTMENT

Scotland’s Bandicoot TV has announced three new appointments to key roles which will cover the U.K. and U.S. markets. James Lassell joins as the group’s head of entertainment, tasked with heading the company’s new U.K. formats and content. He will oversee all new U.K. entertainment formats, reality and factual entertainment. Robert Cooke has been appointed as VP of U.S. development and is responsible for overseeing the company’s North American development strategy, focusing on formats, IP and entertainment. And finally, Lucy Eagle joins the company as head of production. Coming from Cactus TV, Eagle has been working as a production executive on Bandicoot’s entertainment IPs “The Masked Singer” and “The Masked Dancer.” Her responsibilities take in all of Bandicoot’s U.K. production slate. All three additions will report to Bandicoot’s founders, managing director Derek McLean and creative director Daniel Nettleton.

FORMATS

Japanese broadcaster and producer Nippon TV is to offer two of its newly successful shows as formats for local adaptation in international markets. Its “Money or Junk” show is an unscripted survival game show in which contestants are sent to remote locations and must make money out of objects deemed as junk. It aired initially in July, rated highly with children, teenagers, and 20-to-34-year-old females, and has already been confirmed for a second season at home. “Life’s Punchline” is a scripted dramedy about a trio of young comedians who have to overcome tough odds after giving up security in favor of a life of comedy. The show played from April to June on broadcast TV and now has close to 14 million views on VOD. Nippon TV, which owns Hulu Japan, has a strong track record in formats, with “Dragons’ Den” aka “Shark Tank” its strongest calling card. – Patrick Frater